Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms.  This article was published in Business Mirror, October 11, 2006  edition, p. A6.

At last Friday’s Senate budget hearing for the Office of the Press Secretary, Mrs Gloria. Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, admitted spending the people’s money to promote the so-called People’s Initiative. After the hearing, he issued a press release explaining why it’s perfectly okay for him to spend our money on Gloria Arroyo’s crusade.

Below is Bunye’s press release.

(BEGIN) Palace defends people’s right to be informed on Charter reform

Stressing it is the inherent right of the people to be informed on matters of vital importance to their future, Malacañang said today there is nothing wrong with the government information agencies working to disseminate information and educate the masses on the true meaning of People’s Initiative (PI) for Charter change.

In a statement, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye clarified that Charter reform was a promise that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made in the 2004 presidential elections and she repeatedly explained it to the people, particularly in the various “Pulong Bayan” (People’s Assembly) during the campaign.

Bunye made the statement to debunk the allegation of former ally but turned political rival Senator Franklin Drilon that “the expenditure of government funds” for the information drive on Charter amendments “is unauthorized and improper.”

“We do not see anything wrong in the government enlivening and deepening the general debate on this issue,” Bunye said.

“It is an open book that President Arroyo is a strong advocate of Charter reform but she has never crossed the line in the determination of its modalities by the people, by the legislature or by the courts,” he stressed.

He added that “it is the right of the people to be informed on matters of import to their future; and the government is merely performing its responsibility.”

According to Bunye, because of the President’s open endorsement of constitutional reform, the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) can undertake programs explaining it to
the people.

“We should not deprive our people of this chance for real political change and economic reforms and we should leave politicking out of this legitimate and lawful exercise because at the end of the day it will be the people themselves who would decide their fate,” Bunye said. (END)

Okay. But government-run stations present only one side of the charter debate. I’m a citizen and a taxpayer. Those stations belong to me too.  How come my side is not given equal time in stations I own ?

I want to hear One Voice, UNO, Black and White Movement, Alan Peter Cayetano, Rene Saguisag, and a whole host of  other people opposed to cha-cha debating with Raul Lambino, Carmen Pedrosa, Jose Abueva, Romela Bengzon and whoever else Malaca?ang can scrape from the bottom of its barrel.  I want to see the proposed charter scrutinized, dissected and analyzed so I can make an informed decision when the time comes. But where is the opposition to cha-cha on government-run stations? How can a debate be “enlivening and deepening” without opposing views?

Bunye insists that Mrs. Arroyo “has never crossed the line in the determination of its modalities by the people, by the legislature or by the courts.”  Actually, she not only crossed the line, she also dipped her little fingers into my wallet to pay for her crusade.

Malaca?ang admitted to spending P10 million for charter change advocacy. It claimed that funds given to Sigaw ng Bayan (People’s Clamor) were “properly used and accounted for.” Yeah?  How the heck is the government “only performing its responsibility “informing the people “on matters of import to their future” when it’s funding only one side? Who is the beneficiary of this government “performing its responsibility?” To whom is it responsible?

If Mrs. Arroyo strongly believes in charter change then she should spend her own money advocating it. She can monopolize the TV station owned by Ramon Jacinto, her husband’s former brother-in-law, if that’s what she wants. But she has no right to monopolize my stations.

Bunye’s press release reminds me of that video clip of Mike Defensor defending the sequestration of congressional funds allocated for the districts of opposition congressmen—“Why should we release funds for them? They question the legitimacy of Mrs. Arroyo, they might use those funds to destabilize her and kick her out of Malaca?ang.”

Government  funds and government stations, for the information of Defensor and Bunye, are not synonyms for “Personal Property of Mrs. Arroyo”, at least not until her dictatorship is firmly established.

Bunye used P10 million pesos of taxpayers’ money to shout charter change at the people. As they say in the vernacular, “Ginamit ang sampung milyon piso natin para masigawan tayo.” (They spent ten million pesos of our money to shout at us.)

Excuse me while I retch.